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You've Got Mail: Jaguars Week

Topics include leadership, Collins' playtime and scramble drill practice

Jalen Thompson Alford tackle mailbag

A win is a win. The Cardinals are 2-0, and are heading -- albeit on a long road trip -- to play a struggling Jacksonville squad. Focus will be paramount. So too is a quality mailbag, which we will definitely make happen right now. (One thing: I got a good question about paying Chandler but the person wouldn't give any kind of name/handle/email. That's fine, but I can't use it.) Send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From Ed Burmila:

"Is it possible that the issue Kyler has on the interceptions is a Brett Favre thing? In other words, he does see the coverage but he has so much confidence in his arm that he thinks he can get it there anyway? Vision never really seemed to be a problem for him."

That's a good point and actually one that Kliff Kingsbury kind of made after the game, that it is a fine line for Kyler because he does want to make things happen and he does have that mentality at times. Take the second pick, for instance. Kyler was hit in the head. He insists it would've been a TD had he not been hit; at the same time, the safety was lurking back there the whole time. Sometimes, QBs are going to take risks. For Kyler, he's going to hit on them a lot more than fail. We've already seen that happen multiple times the first two games.

From Jake Marshall:

"Hi Darren. I want to talk about the single most overused word when it comes to any GM in the NFL talking about their locker room and that is 'leadership.' I don't need to tell you Darren, you already know, but I need to rant. There is such thing as 'too many cooks in the kitchen' when it comes to leadership. You do NOT want a team of 53 former captains. True leadership is typically a born trait. JJ Watt is a born leader. Kyler is not. Budda is not. And trying to construct a team with all these leaders in their various forms doesn't work for several reasons. A leader doesn't necessarily make a good follower. Saturating the team with leaders makes it so guys like Kyler and Budda (just using them as examples) lose opportunities to grow in leadership. It can become annoying. Too many pep talks, too many pieces of advice. I'm not saying any of this is actively happening on the Cardinals. But I am saying that teams need to be cognizant of this obsession with leadership."

I get what you are saying. But if what you say is true in the Cards' locker room -- and I'm not saying it is, and I am kind of wondering how you would know if Budda and Kyler are leadership material since you've never been around them -- then they don't have too many cooks, right? If you aren't a leader, by your definition, then just given them a captain's "C" doesn't change that. Your ultimate point is you don't want too many alpha dogs, except almost all these guys have been alphas most of their lives which is how they ended up in the pros in the first place.

From Aleksi Koskinen:

"First of all, it's great to see Cardinals being 2-0, though the second win wasn't that convincing. I want to ask about the grass. What's the condition of it and how does it compare according to the players with other surfaces? I'm asking this due to seemingly many players losing their footing during the game, which also risks injury. Also, I was surprised how the much criticized Vikings O-line manhandled our defensive linemen not named JJ Watt, Corey Peters or Michael Dogbe. The defense sure did adjustments in half time to limit Cook's efficiency, but there's a lot to improve for upcoming weeks to stay undefeated."

The grass was in perfect condition Sunday. They usually replace the turf after the beating it takes in training camp, and to be honest, I did not notice players slipping -- at least not any more than any other game around the league. I thought the field looked and played great. It's usually the top-ranked or one of the top-ranked fields in the league when the players do a survey. As far as the defensive line, none of them are going to want to remember this one. Hopefully it'll be an outlier.

From James Savage:

"What is it about Kyler Murray that has drawn so much criticism from (supposed) fans? I read this mailbag pretty frequently and I thought maybe after the opener the haters would take a week off but nope. Now this week, he was about the only reason they hung in and got the win. I'm hoping the haters take notice and drop the whole 'is he a good leader' line of questioning."

I don't know if I'd say he was about the only reason. Big reason yes, but still. As for the much drinking of Haterade (in your opinion), I can't speak for them. Quarterbacks get much of the praise and much of the hate; a guy like Kyler, who seems to draw big emotions along both lines (and probably along age lines too -- the younger the fan, the more they vibe with him) creates both.

From Robert Malicki:

"Yes, Chandler Jones has earned the accolades from his opening game performance. Please give us, Darren, some insight concerning the contract extension he is likely to receive sooner rather than later? It seems to me that the front office is less afraid of his 'age' as the reason for this delay, but more likely cap room planning? Could ownership be trying to maneuver his extension thru this season's limited cap room but preparing for Kyler's anticipated contract upgrade next year knowing of the large increase in cap money coming next offseason? There does not appear to be animosity between team and player."

I don't know of any specifics, so to say it's likely sooner rather than later, I can't say one way or the other. I don't know how you would be able to tell from the outside that it would be more about cap space than age. I wouldn't be confident saying that. In fact, cap space is never really a reason for any team to move on from a player. You can find the cap space whenever you want. There are consequences sometimes, of course, but for a good enough player, he is worth the consequences. When Steve Keim talks about a "million moving parts" when it comes to a situation like this, it all factors in -- age, cap space, where the rest of the roster is now and in a year or two, production, projecting production in Year 3 and 4 of a potential deal, and I could go on. I do think something eventually gets done. But I don't know when.

From Raine Voights:

"Hey Darren, I know when it comes to stopping the run it is a team effort. However, too many times on Sunday I saw plays where Jordan Hicks waited to be blocked instead of moving forward, then stayed block instead of getting off the block and then making a tackle. I'd rather have ZAVIN in there flying to the ball even if he sometimes misses because he's going too fast. Just my thoughts. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this."

Thought No. 1: The one time I need someone to actually use an "e" as the last vowel in a name, and now you use the "i." Zaven. Bidwill. Thought No. 2: I'd have to see what plays to which you refer -- Collins actually played 41 percent of the defensive snaps, so was he out there as well? I don't think anyone played well against the run Sunday. The Cards were better in the second half, although I wonder if Cook hadn't gotten banged up if that would've changed much. Still, with everything that has happened with Hicks and Collins this offseason, I feel like whatever they do with both is very deliberate.

From Jesse L:

"In the (first) Folktales episode, we got to see a lot of former Cardinals near and dear to our hearts -- Jake Plummer, Frank Sanders and Larry Centers, among others. It seems like the organization has gone a long way to repair some relationships that may (or may not) have been sour at one point. I have long believed that letting Larry Centers go after the 1998 season was a major contributor to not returning to the playoffs -- even if the advanced stats say the Cards were a lucky team in 1998. Do you know how that went down? And do you think Larry C should be in the Hall of Fame? I think it's an interesting case, but it doesn't seem like there's any traction on it actually happening."

The aftermath of the 1998 season was right before my time covering the team, so no, I don't have any real insight there. Between losing Lomas Brown, Jamir Miller and Larry Centers that offseason, it was a tough blow to the team on the field and in the locker room. As solid of a player Centers was, I don't see him as ending up in Canton.

From Cris P:

"Urbs, that was an ugly win, I hope it left a bad taste in the mouths' of Cards players. But lets talk about the SKOL chant we all heard on TV and what appeared to be half the stadium filled with Viking fans. I am dumbfounded at the amount of opposing fan bases that show up at State Farm Stadium week in, week out. I guess living in Indiana I am used to the die-hard fan bases across all levels of sports and very few opposing fans showing up even when the team are not very good. Why do so many opposing fans show up in Arizona? As a side note, I love the 'How I Got Here' series. Even my wife likes it and she's not a big sports fan. Let's keep that series going."

The question about opposing fans has long been around. There are a lot of transplants out here still. Fans like coming to Arizona to visit (although if I'm from Minnesota, coming here in September wouldn't have been my first choice.) The Vikings have always traveled pretty well. And the reality is there are a) fans who can recoup their season ticket money by selling one or two of the right games and b) ticket brokers who buy season tickets. I thought there were a lot of Vikings fans but it wasn't nearly as rough as other times with other teams.

From Wyn Charles:

"Why did Leki Fotu play so little vs the Vikings? It's no surprise our DL was getting gashed when there was so little rotation. Leki,, Michael Dogbe and Rashard Lawrence barely played. You can't do that to Watt, Allen and Peters. Heck, Chandler played 100 percent of the defensive reps. That's not good. Give guys a breather."

Kliff Kingsbury said Fotu's lack of time was a function of how the game played out, and at this point, I am guessing they wanted to stay with their top of the depth chart guys more often because they were hoping the group would figure it out, which it kind of did in the second half. I get what you are saying about breathers, but it's a fine line. The depth chart is a depth chart for a reason.

From JR Sanchez:

"You probably wont get this question until after the Vikings games (fingers crossed win) but I noticed the Vance said Zaven lost snaps to Hicks against the Titans because after the lead, we moved to predominantly nickel coverage. And that doesn't make sense to me. Nickel is our coverage scheme. So wouldn't you want the faster linebackers on the field? Zaven and Isaiah. Run downs you want Hicks in there. So its a very opposite-of-what-we-expect sort of comment."

On the surface, I'd agree. But when we talk about what will cause a steeper learning curve for Collins, it will be defending the pass, and perhaps that is the situation right now. I think this week, with a less-than-stellar offense in Jacksonville, how the playing time is doled out will be interesting to see. But I still expect to see a ton of Hicks.

From Westley Johnson:

"I was reading the Vikings post game articles and P2 made a good point. 'They are compatible, as far as when it comes to skill set. But that dude, Russell – Kyler's special, he really is – but Russell, I feel like his receivers have a better understanding when he scrambles versus (Murray) because they actually can tell, they actually work on it.' Considering how much Kyler likes to scramble and make plays, I don't think our WRs are quite so attuned to it as much as they should be. As P2 noted, the Seattle receivers look like they actually practice scramble plays A LOT because they are good at reading Russ in the scramble. Whereas Cardinals receivers sometimes just stop in their route and watch what's happening. But I think its a very valid point, and something the team should integrate."

I am a little surprised that Patrick made it sound like that because a) he watched how much the Cardinals do work on it, which is part of every practice (plus whatever plays break down in practice, like in a game) and b) he would have zero idea how much the Seahawks practice it, and whether it is more or not compared to the Cardinals. Given that two of the three TDs thrown by Kyler were basically scramble drills and in both cases (Hop and Moore) the guys were exactly where they needed to be, I can't say I agree with this. Yes, Moore was just standing there, but with it a zone and him by himself, that was the right move. Finally, if you are practicing scramble drills more than regular plays, or any significant time, as a coaching staff you might as well re-sign then because if you are planning to always being a fire drill out there, you're not winning anything. Seahawks included.

From DGR Ruby:

"Being a fan of Andy Isabella, is it pretty much over for him? He's seeing absolutely no playing time - understanding the WR room is loaded it seems as if he's relegated to being kept on roster in case the injury bug hits. Did he do anything specific to warrant the bench? Not even playing on special teams. Thanks much."

I mean, yes, at this point, he is injury insurance. Unfortunately, that's reality.

From Lorna Green:

"I read and listened to a lot of the feedback about the Cardinals game against the Vikings. I was sure glad for the win, no matter how it happened but I never heard a word about the O-line. I attended the game and it seemed like Kyler was not getting the protection he got last week. Did I miss something?"

It did feel like the protection wasn't as consistent as it was in the first game. But -- and I know there is much the PFF grades don't say, but it's all we really have -- says they did OK in pass blocking.

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren, thank you again for the mailbag. I love you and respect your opinion and comments. Two things. First, I love Larry Fitzgerald. I'm 35 and growing up, my mom was a big St. Louis fan and when Kurt Warner joined the team I started watching The Cardinals and I love Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. In my opinion if Christian Kirk stays healthy he might not return, so he wouldn't want to take away from him and if Christian can't stay healthy he might be more willing to return? Also, if as a whole team if we can stay healthy I think we can shock the world and win the division. Who do you think are the top five people who need to stay healthy on our team to make a run at our division, and of course the playoffs? Thank you again."

I do not think Fitz is playing again, regardless of circumstance. Yes, they have to stay healthy. Kyler can't get hurt. Hop can't get hurt. I think Chandler must stay healthy. Given the position, I'd put Murphy on that list. There are a bunch of others for No. 5, so it's hard to choose. Hudson, Humphries, Budda. There are others I'd consider.

From Walder Gael:

"Hi Darren, this is a question for Dani, but maybe you know the answer since you interviewed her. Looking at her Twitter, the Cowboys are her hometown team. So why come here to Arizona? Obviously she's welcome and it's great to have her. But it is odd. Most people work their whole lives to get back home. She had the dream job. Covering her hometown Cowboys, and surely her whole family there. So again, why come to Arizona for the same job?"

I don't want to speak for Dani, but 1) not everyone necessarily wants to stay home their whole life and 2) again, knowing Dani can speak for herself, I think she likes the opportunity she has here.

From Andy Abner:

"Tony Jefferson is available. Did you know he's still only 29? Great player. Just putting it out there if we ever have need at safety. Which reminds me, how is Jalen Thompson doing? He is by far the most forgettable starter we have. No disrespect meant, but it's weird how Budda is such a big star, and virtually every other position gets articles and interviews and then you remember, 'Hey there's another safety on the field, oh it's Jalen.' "

I think Thompson has been fine. He's going to be overshadowed when he's playing with an All-Pro. But they like what he brings to the defense. The articles thing can get skewed -- in this era of Covid, there are a lot of players who would be written about/talked to more than they have been if there was still open locker room. Right now, the media relations staff picks the vast majority of those who speak. Also, there is Thompson's injury history. If he stays healthy all season, I'm think his profile will get higher.

From Blip E:

"Leki played well (week one). I think Watt is a good influence on him. Didn't see much of Lawrence, is he OK? His snaps were low. When will Jordan Phillips be back?"

The defensive line is healthy. It needs to play better as a unit. As for Phillips, he will miss at least one more game but we'll see when he actually comes off the list.

From Johnny Turbo:

"Three points after one game:

  1. Jordan Hicks is a great leader and trainer. (Hope he retires a Cardinal)
  2. Kyler Murray looks like an MVP this year. (Charisma is showing strongly)
  3. Michael Bidwill better get the check book out for Chandler Jones. (Last year was an anomaly)"

Wonder if Johnny would amend any of these after the second game or if he still feels the same.

From John Ingram:

"Hi Darren. I really enjoy the work you do, both written and the podcasts. This is more of a comment than a question. It really bothers me that in previous mailbags many 'fans' have dissed the Cards for their drafting of Andy Isabella. Many comments claim that we blew the pick because we missed out on DK Metcalf. Being that Metcalf was the 64th player chosen, it appears most of the other teams missed as well. Metcalf had a very inconsistent, injury-prone college career. Isabella, though coming from a smaller school, had a nice college career culminating in a great senior year and an outstanding Senior Bowl. Metcalf had the good fortune to be drafted by a team with an extensive record of being successful, an experienced coaching staff, and a probable HOF QB throwing passes to him. Andy had none of that. Lastly, the former WR coach seemed to have a weak resume for the position and we saw very little improvement from our drafted or existing receivers. Coach Jefferson brings with him a long and distinguished career of playing and coaching at the college and NFL level. I really expect (hope) to see all our young WRs show marked improvement this season. Thanks Darren. I have a feeling this season could be a really special one."

I know you didn't really ask a question, but while I understand your points, I also understand those frustrated with the pick. Metcalf has had success, Isabella has not. Hindsight is always spot on. And yes, there were fans who wanted Metcalf picked at the time. I guess for me, it'll be the story just like the Levi-Adrian Peterson thing was the story for the longest time, until it wasn't. It works both ways. Seahawks fans are mad their team didn't take Budda Baker over DT Malik MacDowell, who Seattle took the pick before.

From Kev Jansen:

"I noticed Tay Gowan was inactive last week. So did we only dress four cornerbacks? That seems mighty risky. Fingers crossed nobody goes down, but if one does you're stretched awful thin."

Gowan has been inactive both weeks. They have had only four cornerbacks active each game, but they have some flexibility with their safeties and with Isaiah Simmons. I don't anticipate Gowan being active anytime soon. I think he's raw, and this could end up as a "redshirt" season for him. We'll see.

From Edson Sierra:

"Hey Darren! Just a couple of things: 1. I was very happy to see the MegaWatt package. J.J. is an amazing human, and I appreciate him taking Leki along. Hope there's more of that in the future. 2. My prediction for this season: 'Is Larry coming back?' is the new 'Are we getting new unis?' Thanks."

  1. I hope we see MegaWatt again.
  2. I'd be OK with that, because as repetitive as it is, I actually have something to say about Fitz's situation.

From Max Lloyd:

"Darren, I think all of us need to know what is the update on Larry if the Cardinals are keeping it silent on the status of Larry is he coming back is he leaving I/we need to know!"

Props for the run-on sentence, Max, yet still very much getting your point across. Let's make this simple. The team isn't keep anything silent. Fitz really isn't either, since he's talked on the subject a couple of times. But as I noted earlier, I don't think he's returning. We can only hope Fitz decides to give some clarity to it one way or another.

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